Positioning a person or object precisely within a building remains one of the challenges of wireless communication, and can be essential to safety, as well as valuable for marketing services based around hyperlocation. Cellular solutions based on very dense small cells; and specialized technologies like UltraWideBand are among the options, and now the WiFi Alliance has announced a certification program for the WiFi approach to this issue. The Alliance will be certifying products which comply with its WiFi Location specs. These use the ‘time-of-flight’ technique, which is defined in the Fine Timing Measurement (FTM) protocol, part of the latest release of the IEEE 802.11 standards on which WiFi is based. WiFi Location is the commercial brand name for that protocol, and will support meter-level accuracy, according to the Alliance’s VP of marketing, Kevin Robinson. The technology enables access points to provide their global coordinates, combined with a floor number, which will be valuable for emergency services personnel responding to calls from within tall buildings.

This approach is far simpler for end users than those based on altitude above sea level, which are used in GPS and cellular, according to an Alliance white paper about its latest technology. And it is able to cover large spaces more effectively than another popular loca-tion awareness method, Bluetooth beacons. There is privacy protection too – the infrastructure requires user consent to share the lo-cation, and an AP may only request a location and share the results if the mobile device is connected to that same AP. Other applications for WiFi Location include improved indoor navigation services, asset tracking, smart cities, network management, geofencing and hyperlocal marketing, said the organization. The Alliance expects infrastructure providers to start evaluating the technology soon and to ship it in mainstream commercial products from 2018.

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